Saturday, February 26, 2011

Evergreen Modeling

Not this kind of Evergreen:

(Although I have messed around modeling such a thing, printing it out on cardstock and cutting, folding, and glueing the printout):

No, today I want to talk about something called bottle brush trees, or a type of evergreen that is easy for someone who is cheap and all thumbs like me to conjure up. Instructions for making trees like this are all over the model forums, but I've learned one or two things that seem to help me get acceptable results. First, let's take a look at what you need to have on hand to make a bottle brush evergreen.

Clockwise from top left-first is a bit of sisal rope. I've heard of people using other types, but I've only used sisal, so can't speak to anything other than that. Just to the right is plain old masking tape, cheapest you can find. Line up on the right are the three tools this step will use-wire cutters, scissors, and a comb? Yes, a comb. Continuing on across the bottom, we see the wire that will serve as the "trunk" of the tree, and some of the rope after it has been cut into usable lengths and boiled. I don't know why you boil it, but it works, and I've never tried without boiling it. Kind of makes it seem like there is some magic to the process so I keep doing it. Now that we've got the stuff on hand, let's make a deal tree.

Cut yourself a piece of wire about twice as long as the tree you are making will be tall, plus just a bit. Next step is to tear off a hunk of masking tape the height of the tree and stick it to the wire, leaving a bit of wire past the end of the tape, kind of like so:

So far, so good. Now, get your comb and some of the boiled rope. Unbundle the rope as much as possible without tearing the strands apart. You will have a single "ply" of the rope, consisting of many individual sisal strands. What needs to happen is the strands have to be separated. Here's where the comb comes in. Comb the rope. From the middle out, first one way, then another. Nobody used conditioner on this rope, so some of it will be a bit tangled. Get after it! Separate those strands. Then stick them to the tape, distributed somewhat evenly. Start at one end of the tape, and continue on until the whole strip is covered. You'll end up with something like this:

Now, it's time to turn this into something resembling a tree. Bend the wire over so the bend is right at the end of the masking tape. Fold those wires together as closely as you can. Leave a loop at the bent end, and clamp the free ends to a 2 x 4 or something like that securely. You'll be pulling on this, so clamp 'er down tight. The time has arrived to use a power tool. In my case, it's a cordless drill with a carefully engineered bent finishing nail in the chuck. Rather than explain what happens, I'll try and show you.

Frankly, at this point, the product looks very little like a tree, and very much like some wire and rope twisted together. Time for the magic weapon-out comes the comb, again. Once more, it's easier to show than tell.

We're getting there. After combing out the "tree" it's obvious that it looks like someone spilled a gallon jug of growth accelerant somewhere in the area. Next step is to correct this problem. Bust out your scissors, and get to work. And don't be afraid to cut! My second secret hint is to be aggressive when you trim. Make that sucker look like an evergreen tree.

At this point, you've got something that looks like this:

We'll make it look more like a tree in the next post. Stay tuned.

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